Case Study: Twitter Tips and Best Practices


Twitter is a useful tool for organizations.  It allows your organization the freedom to spotlight a broad range of issues and newsworthy items that relate to your cause.  Whatever kind of Tweeter you are, take into consideration these examples and tips to think of more ways you can engage and reach out to people and promote your cause.


To continue challenging yourself to understand all the uses of Twitter and what it can do for your organization.

Twitter Tips:

  1. Don’t overcomplicate Twitter.  Be honest, be real, and be human.  Don’t overthink your Twitter entries.  Use your own voice, not a detached institutional one.
  1. Tweet about things people care about.  With chapters in Minnesota and New York, Free Arts uses Twitter to share inspirational quotes and links to interesting articles related to their cause.  Quotes work well on Twitter because people are more apt to retweet inspirational quotes than another link to your blog.  In this way, Free Arts appeals to what people are interested in and something they can engage in.  Linking to newsworthy events that people are already talking about and how they relate to your cause can also be another approach.

  1. Tweet in the moment.  Don’t be afraid to live tweet as something important might be happening pertaining to your organization.
  1. Follow the 60-30-10 rule.  That’s 60% retweets and pointers to promote items from other users or sites, 30% conversation and responses, 10% announcements and events. If all you ever talk about is you, no one is going to pay attention after a while.
  1. Be strategic.  Follow and schmooze with influencers in your sector.  Use’s Advanced search link to find people in your sector or geographical region.
  1. Be supportive.  Follow like-minded users and engage with them.  Retweet liberally.  Link to interesting news stories about your partners or sector. 
  1. Optimize your keywords.  Make sure that people can find you in a search.  Your profile should contain the name of your organization, relevant keywords and a URL to your site or blog.
  1. Personalize your page.  Upload your organization’s logo as an icon, or you may want individual staffers to use their own thumbnail images. Don’t use a standard Twitter background (click the “Change background image” link under the Design tab of your profile). Adjust background and text colors. And make sure your account is public. 
  1. Stick to a routine.  The most popular accounts offer a steady stream of tweets: five to ten a day.  It’s unlikely you’ll overtweet.  Tweet during weekdays, mostly from 9 am to 5 pm.  You can use social media dashboards like CoTweet, Hootsuite, TweetDeck or Seesmic to spread out and schedule your tweets.
  1. Find your retweet style.  You can hit the retweet button, or go old school with a “RT” and an @mention, allowing you to add your own comment at the beginning (fyi: it’s common practice to comment before, not after, the “RT”).
  1. Use hashtags.  The Gates Foundation makes ample use of hashtags and actively participates in “Follow Friday” (hashtag: #FF), a practice that builds a sense of community around their cause and can be seen as a type of online partnering. They utilize a “Photo of the Day” that links back to their site, a tactic that is also used by Charity:water. Join in relevant Twitter conversations and trending topics by using these #hashtags.  Use existing ones or create your own.
  1. Get into a groove.  Consider focusing on one topic for a day or a week. Combine your updates with a hashtag theme like #WaterWednesday or #socialjustice.
  1. Sync Twitter and Facebook. Add a tweet button to your site or blog to allow easy sharing of your content.  If you have a blog, always tweet about an updated post, but rewrite the headline to ask a question or create an intriguing angle.
  1. Ask questions.  Room to Read asks interactive questions on hot topics people might be searching for, such as “With the final Harry Potter movie coming out, we want to know: What is your favorite literacy series and why?”  Asking simple, personalized questions offers an opportunity for users to @reply to you when they otherwise may be disinclined to.

  1.  Use calls to action.  It’s OK to say, “Please check out our latest photo essay” or “Please RT.”  Just don’t abuse people’s attention spans.
  1. Include links.  Social media expert Dan Zarella found that tweets containing a URL are three times more likely to be retweeted.  Charity:water, with 1.3 million followers, is the first Twitter result when using the search term “nonprofit.”  The organization’s focus is clear and so are their tweets, which often feature a compelling teaser, which links back to their website.
  1.  Have one regular, daily tweet.  Operation Smile updates readers with human-interest stories of specific children they’ve helped, and links to well-produced videos highlighting their mission.  They also use a  “Pic of the Day.”  This also gives you a chance to link back to your website or blog.
  1. Be gracious.  Respond to people when they mention you.  Reply when people ask questions.  Follow back people who follow you (but don’t feel obligated to).


Ultimately, Twitter is another social media outlet that can be easy to use once you get the hang of it.  With these Twitter tips, hopefully you can increase your understanding of this tool and how to better your Tweets.

Published by The Fundraising Journal 2011



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